Archive for September, 2011

September 27, 2011

Recipe: Cannellini bean salad with boiled egg

Yes it has been a little quiet around ETP Towers, hasn’t it. Well, that’s because we’ve been away to Barcelona where, surprisingly I thought, it was actually rather easy to eat vegetarian. More on that later. First, however, here‘s a nice bean salad from Yotam Ottolenghi from the Guardian newspaper a few weeks ago. I’d suggest swapping the anchovies for a spoonful of chopped capers. It should work nicely. Scroll down for the recipe.

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September 17, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Damson crumble

We popped to the farmers market this morning, which reminded me of something we were meant to post a few weeks ago – a picture of our damson crumble that we made with damsons bought last time we were at the market.

Is crumble an autumnal thing? I always think of it so, maybe because a good fruit crumble is such a satisfying way to use autumn fruits: damsons, plums, apples, blackberries etc.

Apparently some people don’t (de)stone their damsons before cooking. I can’t really agree with that and, while stoning them does take time it’s also vaguely therapeutic. You know you’ve earned a good pudding when your hands are all black and blue with juice.

We didn’t stew the damsons first, just popped them straight into the ovenproof dish with a fair bit of sugar and spooned the crumble mixture (recipes widely available – just search the web) on top and cooked in the oven till the fruit was starting to bubble up through the golden crumble top. Oh yes, and I do like to put some oats into the crumble mixture too, especially with darker fruits. I’m not sure why.

So, yes, damson crumble. Easy and delicious.

September 15, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Italian bean soup with basil

Wednesday 24 August

A rather delicious bowlful of soup from Ella, who will often pep up a tomato-based Italianate recipe with the addition of some basil leaves, garlic, and olive oil, pounded with a mortar and pestle. It’s a good trick and produces something akin to pesto, but with a bit more tang and a little less gloop – great to have a spoonful with some soup.

Essentially, this is hearty one-pot stuff, taking an onion, garlic, chilli, pepper, courgette, tomatoes, a tin of butter/borlotti/pinto beans, and some stock and bringing them all together.

So, in a large, deep saucepan or stockpot, fry a sliced onion for 5 minutes until soft, then add two cloves of chopped garlic and some fresh chilli (as much as you like). After 2 minutes add a sliced bell pepper, seeds and pithy bits removed. Cook for 5 more minutes then add a roughly diced courgette. Stir. Then add either a tin of chopped tomatoes or 4-5 medium tomatoes, skins removed and chopped. Stir again then add a litre of vegetable stock or water. Simmer for as long as it takes for the liquid to reduce and the soup become, well, soupy. The longer the better really as the flavours increase with time on the hob. Serve with the basil ‘sauce’.

I think that’s how Ella made it, in any case.

And one final thing, we did already allude to this soup in an earlier post, here. Which leads me to say that yes, this is our weekday variation.

September 13, 2011

Recipe: Squash and Cider Soup

We almost – almost – had a butternut squash soup for last night’s dinner. It didn’t happen in the end, in part because I wanted a squash soup with a twist and something that didn’t feel too wintery (it’s not yet mid-September, whatever the wind is telling me as it rattles the windows and blows dark grey clouds across the creek).

This Squash and Cider Soup, here, from the New York Times, would have been perfect (and yes, that’s what I was thinking: it does seem a particularly English, Septembery soup for a US publication).

As the serving suggestion recommends, I think this would make a lovely lunchtime soup in a mug. We don’t do enough of that.

September 8, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Cheese and onion flan with tomato salad

Monday 22 August

I don’t know anyone who remembers school dinners with much fondness. I certainly don’t. I stopped having them as soon as I could and took packed lunches instead, then dinner money to spend down ‘the street’ where there was a bakers that did a nice old-fashioned cheese sandwich.

One thing I did like at school though was the sizzling hot trays of cheese flan, or cheese and onion flan, or cheese and tomato flan (it was a long time ago). Even in sixth form some of us used to nick into the refectory for a slice. It was so savoury and delicious.

I say flan – and I think I mean it. It wasn’t at all elegant, so ‘tarte’ is definitely wrong. And it wasn’t a quiche. In my mind, a quiche is light, the egg ‘custard’ fluffy and pale. You might eat quiche cold.

But a flan… a flan is unpretentious. There’s no milk added to the egg mixture, it’s not overly whisked, it’s just a plain old simple open pie. That’s what I set out to make, stuffing the pastry case with (in this instance) onion, tomato, eggs and cheese to approximate that old school dinner.

I bought the pastry for this one, rolled it out and flopped it into a 10-inch flan tin. Blind bake the pastry for around 15-20 minutes at 190/200 degrees (ie, cover it and weigh it down so it doesn’t rise, and cook until the pastry is just golden and not raw/soggy anymore). Finely chop and fry an onion. Spread that across the cooked base of the pastry case. Halve four medium tomatoes, take out the pips and finely chop the remaining flesh. Scatter that into the flan base too. Then, beat five eggs in a bowl, add some pepper and grate a fair amount of strong cheddar cheese into the bowl. It should be a cheesy-looking egg mixture, rather than simply beaten eggs with a spoonful of cheese.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on no more than 140 degrees – the lower temperature means the eggs will set without the pastry starting to burn (hopefully). When the egg/cheese mixture looks set, take the flan from the oven, grate some more cheese over the top and place a few thin slices of tomato across the top too. Put it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

It’s nice to serve this with new potatoes and a green salad, but on this occasion we had a beautiful punnet of mixed tomatoes that came in reds, oranges, yellows and purples, as well as regular tomato and ‘pear’ shapes. Gorgeous. Halve the tomatoes, place in a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper, add a dash of sherry vinegar and a splash of olive oil, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Job done.

September 7, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Gratin of greens with pink fir apple potatoes

Sunday 21 August

Having picked up some lovely pink fir apple potatoes (surely the most potatoey of small potato?) at the farmer’s market, and it being a Sunday, we decided to keep it simple for dinner. Now, here at ETP Towers we could quite easily eat variations on spuds and cabbage every day. Maybe that’s some Celtic/Northern/Peasant heritage creeping in, but a plate of potatoes and greens suits us just fine. Today however, Ella offered to ‘pimp her greens’ (cavolo nero and purple kale, but Savoy cabbage would be fine) by making a gratin of them.

Let’s not delay by recounting recipes in detail. If you want to make a proper cheese sauce, compare methods on the internet and go for it. You’ll need butter, plain flour, milk and cheese – unless you want a special variation (like our previous ‘cheat’ method, here).

At home we’ve discussed at length how to get a cheese sauce the right consistency – not to gloopy, not too watery – at the end of the gratin’s baking time. Sometimes a perfectly good sauce on the hob transforms itself into something less than perfect in the oven. Should you cover it, have less or more sauce, make it thicker or thinner on the hob? Does the type of cheese you use affect the outcome? Well, maybe they all do. Comparing notes, the ETP team would recommend not using too much sauce and perhaps not having it too hot in the oven. But that’s not a guarantee.

After all that, the rest of the method is easy. You make a cheese sauce, lightly steam some greens for 3-4 minutes, lightly fry a sliced onion and then add ’em all to an oven-proof dish. Bake until golden and bubbling. Serve with them lovely spuds.

September 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Chilled fennel soup with halloumi croutons

Wednesday 17 August

As I type this the wind is rattling the windows and the skies are a deep grey – a kind that Elle Deco would probably say is very fashionable for an accent wall right now. Yes, the sky is all rather Farrow and Ball.

It was a lovely evening when I made this soup, however. Ella was late coming home and I was pottering about after a day’s work. The recipe, here, is by Yotam Ottolenghi and would also make a fab lunch – perhaps with a light glass of Vinho Verde. I made rather a lot of croutons, as you can see. But I do like halloumi! And I know, fennel, chilled, soup? Give it a go – especially if you’re fond of a hearty gazpacho or almond based ajo blanco.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: A ‘kind of’ Caldo Verde

Sunday 14 August

Caldo Verde is the Portugeuse soup of potato, onion and kale. Recipes vary for it, sometimes meat is added to it, sometimes garlic, and probably loads of other things too. But the essential items are the greens of the leaves and the whites of the potatoes and onion.

We had a huge bunch of kale in the kitchen and Ella suggested doing something stew-like with it and a a Caldo Verde was kind of the way to go. Kind of. My issue with with straightforward Caldo Verde is that a loose soup of greens and potato can lack punch. Cabbage soup: low on the wow factor. So I like to toughen it up slightly. Garlic is a good addition, as is a hearty stock. But my main addition is beans (butter beans, haricot beans, borlotti beans – anything really, as long as they’re basically a white bean). The beans add substance and protein, as well as providing a different texture and just that little extra thing going on to make it less plain. And I think of it as a stew, not a soup. So…

In a large stockpot, fry a sliced onion in olive oil for five minutes, then add a clove of finely chopped garlic and cook for a further three minutes. Next, add some halved new potatoes, or quartered potatoes if they’re larger. Floury potatoes are good here as when they start to break up they’ll thicken the sauce. Then add some roughly chopped kale, any thick stalks removed, a tin of white beans of your choice and a level dessert spoon of paprika. Finally add some vegetable stock, which should come up about level with the top of all the veg. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft you might want to crush a few of them in the pan and then stir – it’ll thicken the sauce a little. Serve with crusty bread and a final drizzle of olive oil.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer quinoa salad

Wednesday 10 August

Beans, beetroot, courgettes… all grown in a local allotment and looking for a home… All we wanted was something that could bind these summery ingredients together… a bed for them to rest in, but one that would allow their individual flavours to shine.

I popped up to the deli and nabbed some quinoa and a tin of chickpeas and got to work. We would once have made this light meal with cous cous, but as we’re avoiding too much wheatiness quinoa is now our preferred alternative.

The method? As straightforward as it looks: cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions, roast the beetroot whole (for about 50 minutes) and then peel and chop into segments (like a Terry’s chocolate orange), shallow fry a chopped onion and courgette, slice the beans into 3cm sections then boil for 4 or 5 minutes and drain.

When everything is ready, combine in a large bowl with the drained chickpeas, drizzle over a little good extra virgin olive oil, and mix through. A simple way to use up some late-summer ingredients from the veg patch.